Pope St. Leo the Great

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Today, November 10, is the Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Doctor of the Church, who reigned on the papal throne from 440 to 461.

St. Leo is known as an important administrator pope, and a powerful opponent of heresy, especially Pelagianism, which overstressed human freedom over God’s grace in our salvation, and Manichaeism, which regarded everything material as evil. He is famous, as well, for his meeting with Attila the Hun, after which Attila retreated from his plan to sack Rome in 452, and for his influence in mitigating the damage done to Rome by the Vandals in 455, as well as helping to rebuild the city after the Vandal invasion. Finally, St. Leo is famous for his Tome, or letter, sent to Flavian of Constantinople, making clear the Church’s teaching on the nature of Christ, which was eventually embraced by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 as dogma of the Church.

From a sermon by St. Leo the Great from The Liturgy of the Hours for the Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor:

Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: We are all one in Christ, nor is anyone separated from the office of another in such a way that a lower group has no connection with the head. In the unity of faith and baptism, our community is then undivided. There is a common dignity as the apostle Peter says in these words: And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And again: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of election.

For all, regenerated in Christ, are made kings by the sign of the cross; they are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharing in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?

Because, through the grace of God, it is a deed accomplished universally on behalf of all, it is altogether praiseworthy and in keeping with a religious attitude for you to rejoice in this day of consecration, to consider it a day when we are especially honored. For indeed one sacramental priesthood is celebrated throughout the entire body of the Church. The oil which is consecrates us has richer effect in the higher grades, yet it is not sparingly given in the lower.

Sharing in this office, my dear brothers, we have solid ground for common rejoicing; yet there will be more genuine and excellent reason for joy if you do not dwell on the thought of our unworthiness. It is more helpful and more suitable to turn your thoughts to study the glory of the blessed apostle Peter. We should celebrate this day above all in honor of him. He overflowed with abundant riches from the very source of all graces, yet though he alone received much, nothing was given over to him without sharing it. The Word made flesh lived among us, and in redeeming the whole human race, Christ gave himself entirely.

God our Father, you will never allow the power of hell to prevail against your Church, founded on the rock of the apostle Peter. Let the prayers of Pope Leo the Great keep us faithful to your truth and secure on your peace. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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